Have you ever left your living room lights on for several hours while you’re at the grocery store or run a half-empty dishwasher? I’m guilty of doing both, but over the last few years I’ve tried to lower my environmental impact at home by consciously making some simple changes. As National Energy Awareness Month comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at ways to reduce our individual energy use.
Conserving energy helps us protect the climate by lowering greenhouse gas emissions, lessening the threat of global warming and contributing to cleaner and healthier air for everyone. At the same time, reducing energy saves money for both companies and consumers.
The EPA reported that in 2012, “Americans, with the help of the Energy Star program and its partners, saved approximately $23 billion on their energy bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of 41 million vehicles.”
I serve as the Chief Sustainability Officer at SC Johnson, and as a company, we set aggressive goals to reduce our global energy consumption. By 2016 we aim to obtain one-third of our total global energy from renewable sources.
We are well on our way. In addition to the 10 major renewable energy initiatives SC Johnson launched around the world over the last decade, we built two 415-foot-tall, 1.5 MW wind turbines at our largest global manufacturing facility, Waxdale, in Mt. Pleasant, Wis. The turbines produce about eight million kWh of electricity per year while cutting 6,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and they reduce our energy costs by around $500,000 per year. This provides tangible proof that companies can experience significant ROI if they set targeted energy reduction goals and then determine the best available technology to meet them.
At the office, I am constantly aware of the many ways that we, as a company, are working to reduce our energy use and embed sustainable practices into every aspect of the business. But it’s important for all of us to also be mindful of our energy use outside of the office. In addition to exchanging my incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs, below are several small steps I’ve taken to reduce my energy consumption at home, and you can, too.
Practice efficient electronics use. Minimize idle charging time for your cell phone, computer, alarm clock, etc., and make sure that you unplug these devices as soon as they are fully charged. Put your computer in sleep mode when it’s not in use, and shut it down completely overnight. Also, consider using a laptop as opposed to a desktop computer – it consumes less energy.
Be energy savvy when using appliances like your refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, etc. Use the power saver switch on your refrigerator, and make sure that you set the temperature between 36° and 42° F. Check the seals on your refrigerator and freezer to ensure that they are secure. On laundry days, wash clothes using cold or warm water and avoid over drying your clothes in the dryer. When cleaning dishes, set your dishwasher to quick or light wash mode and make sure that it’s full.
Control the temperature of your thermostat. Make sure that you aren’t overheating your house. During the winter months, set the thermostat to 60° F when you are sleeping or not at home, and set the thermostat to 68° F when you’re in the house. We Energies reports that this “will save you 10 percent or more on your heating bills every winter.” Remember to turn your thermostat down when you leave for vacation. There’s no need to fully heat your house if no one’s in it!
These changes have become part of my daily routine, and now I don’t think twice about lowering the thermostat before I go to bed or unplugging my smart phone as soon as it finishes charging. I have also used home energy reduction techniques as a way to teach my two daughters about the value of taking responsibility for their environment. Hopefully this will lead to a lifelong respect for our planet’s precious resources and increased knowledge about what it takes to preserve them.
As I continue to look for more ways to reduce the energy consumption in my home, I know that I’m doing my part to contribute to a cleaner environment and a more sustainable future for both my daughters and future generations.